I am antifa.
Before I ever knew what fascism was, I was anti. You might say that I was a premature antifa.
I believe in stopping fascism by any means necessary. No freedom for the enemies of freedom sounds like a great idea.
What I’m not so sure is that we all agree on who the enemies of freedom are, or even what a fascist is. And if we don’t agree, who gets to decide? And how?
Story #1: In 1991, some of us from LAGAI, which at that time stood for Lesbians And Gays Against Intervention, went to a meeting called by ANSWER, which at that time was called the International Action Center, to plan a mass mobilization against war in Iraq, which at that time was called Desert Storm. Among the groups represented was the RCP, which did then and still does stand for Revolutionary Communist Party, and which was then and still is headed by Bob Avakian. At that time the RCP’s Programme contained this statement: “[H]omosexuality is promoted and fostered by the decay of capitalism…After the revolution, struggle will be waged to eliminate it and reform homosexuals.”
To us, this was a clear call for cultural genocide. Needless to say, we did not feel like people should be free to express that view. We didn’t call for beating up members of the RCP. We did call for kicking them out of the coalition. We didn’t prevail. Instead, someone from another group told us not to worry because the RCP is not going to win (we knew that, but it was not the point).
A year or so later, at a rally at the State Building in defense of abortion rights, one of the guys selling Revolutionary Worker told Daniel to stop thinking with his genitals. And Daniel still didn’t hit him.
Story #2: In 1984, the Demokkkratic National Convention was held in San Francisco. Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” an antiwoman, antigay, right-wing Xian group held a “Family Forum” at a hotel in Union Square. Thousands of people protested outside, and the cops rampaged and lots of people got beaten up. My affinity group of six women managed to get credentials to infiltrate the conference and disrupted a talk by Nat Hentoff, a columnist for the Village Voice. Since we were incognito, we avoided interacting with any of the protesters as we entered the hotel, in drag suitable for such an event. Someone tried to give me a flier. I shook my head. He crumpled up the leaflet and threw it at me, using a word for a female body part (or I guess I should say anatomy some females have – see story #4).
Story #3: In 2005, Brandon Darby cofounded Common Ground Relief in New Orleans, along with former Black Panther Malik Rahim, anarchist and environmental activist Scott Crow, nonviolent direct action trainer Lisa Fithian, and others. Darby became very central to Common Ground’s work, which at times deployed thousands of volunteers and a million dollar budget. According to Rahim, “Brandon and Scott brought weapons to my house to help me defend my home,” he says. “So my first feeling for both of them was love.” At Rahim’s request, Darby set up an outpost of Common Ground in the Lower Ninth Ward, “brought in a group of volunteers who fed people and cleared debris from houses while being harassed by police, right along with the locals who had refused to evacuate.” (Mother Jones) Darby and Crow were strong advocates for armed self-defense against white supremacist and police violence, and eventually went to Venezuela, ostensibly to raise money from the Chavez government for Katrina survivors.
Darby has also been described as “quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with” (Courtney Desiree Morris, “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements”). Lisa Fithian says Darby “set some patterns in motion that I believe led to systemic issues of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and violence,” within Common Ground. “He kicked the door down of a women’s center at 2 am to throw a guy out; he kicked in the door of a trailer where there were volunteers with guns on them.”
Ultimately, Darby went to work for the FBI, first as an informant and eventually as an agent, luring two younger, newer activists, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, into a scheme to firebomb police cars during the 2008 Republikkkan Konvention and then testifying against them. He is now the managing director of Breitbart Texas, a branch of the right wing site that gave us Steve Bannon.
Story #4: On September 13 of this year, radical feminists and trans activists were scheduled to debate the proposed UK Gender Recognition Act, which would enable people to change their gender identification without needing certification from a doctor.
We in LAGAI believe this law change is a good thing. But some feminists are worried that it will open the door for men to pretend to be trans in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms, bathrooms, prisons, and other spaces in order to abuse women. That claim is completely unsubstantiated. People should be able to use whatever facilities feel right to them and not be subjected to the shrieks and screams we have all heard around women’s bathrooms.
The debate, entitled “What Is Gender?” was supposed to include the trans liaison of Stonewall UK as well as another representative of Stonewall, Dr. Julia Long who calls herself an advocate of “women-only spaces” and a self-described “gender critical transsexual” named Miranda Yardley. Trans activists pressured the Stonewall reps not to participate, and on September 11 (coincidence?), they backed out. A group called “Action for Trans Health London” (A4TH) launched a “No TERFs on our Turf” campaign to get New Cross Learning Center, to cancel the event, saying that the trans perspective was being excluded. (TERF = Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). On September 12, New Cross canceled the event.
This is called “No Platforming” – giving no platform to those who espouse hate speech and/or violence. The feminists called for a public gathering at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, a legendary space for crackpot views of every stripe, where suffragettes once soapboxed, and said that the secret location would be disclosed there. A4TH put out a call for people to find out where the secret location was, suggesting various ways of getting that information, and vowed to shut it down, saying:
“This is violence. We know that when Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) speak, they enact, encourage and condone violence against women of trans experience, transfeminine people and those who experience transmisogny.
“One trans woman does not speak for all people of trans experience, particularly when she does not experience the extreme risks of violence faced by trans people of colour.
We know TERFSs are not and will never be interested in being challenged via ‘debate’. We are not interested in engaging with them on those terms.”
On the 13th, the small group of so-called TERFs gathered as scheduled. As Julia Long started to sing a song through a megaphone, a 60-year-old woman named MacLachlan, described in the media as a “mother of two” who describes herself as a “gender-critical feminist” (whatever that is), decided to film the gathering. According to her, a group of younger hoodie-wearing people descended on her and tried repeatedly to grab her camera. The Metro (“News But Not As You Know It”) reported: “Ms MacLachlan ended up with a bruise on her face, red marks on her neck and grazed knees, her camera also was smashed and memory card stolen.” A4TH defended the action, saying, “We condemn violence against women in all forms. We’re proud that many self-organising activists, allies and supporters stood against hatred, misogyny and intimidation.”
You can watch a video of the altercation at GenderTrender. Keep in mind that while the headline is “Clear footage of the assault,” it was far from clear to me.
Lessons to be learned:
1) One leftist’s enemy of freedom is another’s revolutionary leader.
2) “Violence” deserving of preventive or defensive violence is in the eye of the beholder.
3) Those of us accustomed to being mistaken for one another (Deeg and Deni, me and Tova – yes, I know, she has red hair, Monique and Arl, Blue and Julie) aren’t so confident that people can identify fascists just from seeing their pictures on Twitter a few times.
4) There are better ways of resolving conflicts among the people than beating each other up.
5) It’s hard to argue or negotiate about strategy and tactics with people if you can’t know who they are.
6) People may not be who you think they are.
7) No one seems to be abandoning their ideologies because people threaten them or beat them up.
That said, we are all antifa.